WARMINSTER >> Even as Archbishop Wood’s attacking players continued to push shots wide or over the crossbar of the Archbishop Carroll goal Thursday, there was a confidence something was coming for them.
Usually, with enough chances, something does. So when sophomore Lauren Ruth latched on to a ball and got behind the defense in the waning moments of the first half, the Vikings finally got what they were looking for.
Ruth scored again in the game’s final minute, providing all the scoring Wood needed as it prevailed 2-0 in their Philadelphia Catholic League quarterfinal matchup with the Patriots.
“The opportunities were definitely coming,” Ruth said. “I know I missed one early on and I just had to wait, we had to get ourselves together and make another chance. Eventually, two goals came from it.”
The Vikings controlled the game from the start, putting 13 shots on target to just one for Carroll. In the midfield and back line, Wood’s physicality bothered the Patriots, with Carroll unable to hold long-term possession and the forwards getting spaced too far apart from the rest of the formation.
Yet even with Wood applying all the pressure, the Vikings just could not put a ball into the net. Ruth had her team’s best chance early, but skied a shot over the bar while senior Sophia Filippo pushed an effort wide, put one over the net and had a third denied by Carroll keeper Claire Boylan, who made 11 stops.
However, Carroll wasn’t able to capitalize on the misfiring Vikings because it couldn’t get anything going on its own end in the attack. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, but Wood’s defense, anchored by Erin Welsh and Caitlyn Cligget, held strong.
“They were a really tough team and they came out at us hard,” Wood senior defender Kylie Menarde said. “We played them earlier in the season and had a good win, but they came after us really hard and they wanted us as bad as we did. We just played hard and got the goals when we needed.”
As the No. 6 seed, it was the first time in coach Frank Olszewski’s three seasons that the Patriots didn’t have to play a pigtail game in the PCL tournament. All season, Carroll proved a tough out, playing eventual regular season champion Lansdale Catholic tightly.
A very direct team, the Patriots had trouble with Wood’s speed up top and the pace of flankers Meghan Hennessey and Elizabeth McCloud kept Carroll’s fullbacks pinned in their own defensive third. Without the outside defenders able to push up, there wasn’t much width for Carroll and senior midfielder Bella Sorrentino.
“Wood was the better team both on this day and the day we played them a couple weeks ago,” Olszewski said. “Their speed unbalanced us a little bit. (Wood) was doing a good job, possession-wise, of six versus our seven or eight. Our forwards today, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t their day.”
Sorrentino, who is committed to Temple, did as much as she could, serving in nearly every free kick and moving the ball through the midfield, almost always double-teamed and taking her fair share of bumps and hits that drew plenty of fouls. There was never that real connection between the midfield and forwards though, so Carroll never really got to build anything up.
“She played like a champ,” Olszewski said of his senior co-captain. “She got knocked to the ground and kept getting up. I’m happy with what she and the other seniors brought us today.”
After 35 minutes of futility in front of goal, the Vikings finally got rewarded in the 36th minute on Ruth’s first goal. Once she got behind the defense, Ruth took off, opening space and getting herself alone with only Boylan to beat.
The sophomore said she used her eyes to create the goal, looking right to draw Boylan that way, then shooting to the left and tucking the ball neatly into the back of the goal.
“We covered the spaces and covered their girls so they had nowhere to pass to and would pass to us,” Ruth said. “The ball would come right back down the field again.”
Wood wasn’t content to sit on a one-goal lead, especially in a playoff game, but Boylan kept her team in it by stopping four shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“We got a lot of opportunities,” Menarde said. “We need to work a little bit on finishing, but we got the goals and that’s all that matters.”
McCloud had a strong game for the Vikings, as did Maggie Cligget and Paige Sellers in the midfield. McCould, a sophomore, is among the crop of underclassmen that have stepped into big roles for Wood this season.
It was her skill on the ball that allowed Ruth to put the game away in the last minute. With McCloud stationed on the left side of the box, Boylan came out to challenge, and McCloud was able to find a wide-open Ruth for the chip-shot finish.
“She came at Liz, and her foot skills are really good, so she touched it by and passed to me in the middle,” Ruth said. “The net, especially the right corner, was wide open, so that’s where I went.”
Wood advances to Tuesday’s semifinal, where it will face PCL No. 2 seed Saint Hubert. Lansdale Catholic and Archbishop Ryan will play in the other semifinal.
After a slow start to the season with some difficult nonleague games, the Vikings came together and closed out the season pretty well, ascending to the No. 3 spot in the PCL table. Back in the semifinals, their goal is to keep it going and find a way into the state tournament.
“It’s how we always play,” Menarde said. “We’re always looking to come out and play as hard as we can and as best as we can. We play well as a team, we pass the ball well, we talked and communicated and I was just really happy with how we played.”
ARCHBISHOP CARROLL 0 0 – 0
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 1 1 – 2
Goals: AW – Lauren Ruth 36’, Ruth (Elizabeth McCloud) 79’. Shots: AC – 1, AW – 13. Corners: AC – 4, AW – 5. Saves: AW – Claire Boylan 11, AW – Isabella Loffreda-Mancinelli 1